Reproductive Justice

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Backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion, has become a key focal point of the Right’s contemporary resistance to reproductive justice; however, opposition extends far beyond the fight for safe, affordable methods of terminating pregnancy. Its comprehensive “family values” approach also targets access to emergency contraception, the vaccine for the human papilloma virus (HPV), comprehensive sex-ed, single parenting, and LGBTQ people. Furthermore, under the umbrella of so-called “pro-life” campaigning, the Right’s political and cultural advances disproportionately affect people of color, poor people, immigrants, trans and gender-nonconforming people, and incarcerated people.

The more recent trend in anti-reproductive justice attacks is a state-by-state approach designed to gradually chip away at existing rights. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in the 40+ years since Roe v. Wade, states have enacted over 1,000 abortion restrictions. These laws and policies have expanded requirements for parental involvement and abortion counseling, and apply limits to medication abortions, later abortions, and coverage requirements from private insurance companies. Other strategies, such as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), effectively manipulate the language of equality and exploit negative stereotypes about women of color in order to advance their agenda. Additionally, the Right’s redefinition of religious liberty — as exemplified in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling — represents a serious threat to reproductive justice and civil liberties more broadly.

Similar strategies and tactics are being deployed globally with American culture warriors at the helm. At the United Nations and around the world, the U.S. Christian Right is leading an attack on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), promoting laws and policies that undermine the human rights of women, children, and LGBTQ people.

Top Resources:

religious exemption report coverWhen Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right

PRA senior fellow Fred Clarkson’s groundbreaking report on the Christian Right’s agenda to use a redefined version of Religious Freedom to exempt themselves from civil rights laws.


Public Eye Fall 2014 CoverAn Uncharitable Choice: The Faith-Based Takeover of Federal Programs

The privatization of public services has long been part of the domestic and global agenda of the Christian Right, and more broadly, of conservative evangelicalism. The free-market agenda of the economic elite and the interests of elite evangelicalism found common cause and a historic opportunity during the Clinton administration. It is a relationship that continues to this day under the rubric of the Faith-Based Initiative – where public dollars are given to religious organizations to provide public services (even if those organizations promote anti-SRHR policies.

2013arkcoverDefending Reproductive Justice: An Activist Resource Kit (PDF)

PRA’s Activist Resource Kit (ARK) has been used by thousands of reproductive justice advocates nationwide to understand and challenge right-wing messaging and strategies. The new edition, launched during the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, acknowledges that despite the groundbreaking decision legalizing abortion, many women and transgender individuals remain unable to access their reproductive rights. In addition to exploring attacks on abortion and contraceptive rights, expanded sections provide in-depth analysis of reproductive abuses and additional right-wing frames, such “Black genocide,” “fetal personhood,” and “abstinence-only.”

Demographic WinterDemographic Winter: Right-Wing Prophecies of White Supremacy’s Decline, and What They Mean for Reproductive Justice

PRA’s 5-part series examining the Right’s efforts to alter demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics, and the idea of White supremacy claims that its continuity hinges on spurring population growth (and thus the cessation of contraceptive use). Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.


abortion-black-genocide-bigAbortion as “Black Genocide”: An Old Scare Tactic Reemerges

After a highly provocative series of 65 billboards went up around Atlanta, featuring an African American infant and the proclamation, “Black Children Are an Endangered Species,” Georgia Right to Life Minority Outreach Director Catherine Davis explained their justification: “Planned Parenthood’s Negro Project,” she said, “is succeeding.” It’s an old argument, with roots in the Black Power and Black Nationalist movements. But in recent years it has become the province of anti-abortion groups who are selectively co-opting civil rights rhetoric to present abortion and even contraception as eugenicist plots disguised as voluntary reproductive choices, which are leading to a slow “Black genocide.”

FRC ad elderly coupleThe More Things Change: Continuing Threats to Reproductive Freedom

In the run-up to the August 2009 Congressional recess, TV ads on health care reform hit the airwaves. The Family Research Council’s political action committee launched a five-state effort to squash a comprehensive health care bill with their spot, set in the future after a liberal version of health care reform has passed. The ad complains that the federal government funds Planned Parenthood, forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions but not an elderly man’s operation.  An announcer warns: “Our greatest generation, denied care; our future generation, denied life.” As the ads continued, the Christian Right inserted an old standby element in the debate: the threat of federally funded abortions. Conservative beltway strategists recognized an opportunity to build the social conservatives’ base by cultivating fear among many people who are uncertain about their own health care future.

PE Cover Fall 2006Laying Siege to the Last Abortion Clinic in Mississippi

The last abortion clinic in Mississippi is under siege. Operation Save America—previously known as Operation Rescue—held a week of protests outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The next week, another anti-abortion group called Oh Saratoga! commenced its own seven days of demonstrations. Impatient for a change in the Supreme Court, anti-abortion forces are determined to make Roe v. Wade functionally irrelevant in the state, and they believe they’re getting close. A decade ago, there were six clinics in Mississippi. Yet the combination of constant harassment and onerous regulations led one after another to shut down, and since 2004, Jackson Women’s Health Organization has stood alone.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 3.38.34 PMReproductive Patriarchy: Reproductive Rights Under Siege

A woman’s ability to control her reproductive decisions- her reproductive rights- involves more than her right to safe and legal abortion. Reproductive rights encompass the right to bear and raise children, the right to access adequate reproductive health care, and the right to prevent pregnancy or terminate an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy. In the almost thirty years since the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, much of the public’s attention has been absorbed with the struggle over the right to abortion. The US political right wing has played a central role in that struggle, with nearly every right-wing politician promising a “litmus test” of opposition to abortion for government and judicial appointments. But the right’s attack on women’s reproductive rights goes far beyond its attack on the right to abortion. The same political forces that work to deny women access to abortion and birth control often simultaneously work to deny women their full range of reproductive rights.